Afghanistan: 113,500 Afghan newborns, but how will they survive? -Afghanistan

Statement by Christine Cipolla, ICRC Regional Director for Asia and the Pacific

Almost a year ago when I visited Afghanistan, the medical system was about to close. The country’s dedicated medical staff had not been paid for months, and the drugs and equipment needed for quality care were not available.

Hospital administrators, doctors and nurses in Kabul and across the country were in despair. Mothers and pregnant women cannot always be adequately treated in a country already facing one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the world, with 638 women dying per 100,000 live births.

In order to take immediate action to save lives and keep health facilities functioning, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) began supporting 33 major hospitals across the country in November 2021. This enabled staff Afghan medical officer to resume providing quality care. A very tangible result: more than 113,500 babies have been born in these establishments since January.

Over the past 10 months, the ICRC has paid the salaries of nearly 10,500 health professionals (about a third of whom are women); fuel to run heating, generators and ambulances; and for patient food and medicine.

But it’s not just the health care system that needs immediate support. While fighting across Afghanistan has diminished significantly over the past year, the struggle of Afghan families to survive has not diminished. A crippled banking system, along with a lack of jobs and cash and the consequences of decades of war, have had a devastating effect on Afghan families. Economic sanctions have aggravated this already dire economic situation.

In the streets of Kabul, we see more and more people selling their belongings, to raise money and put food on the table. We see long lines of women begging for bread in front of the bakeries. In rural areas, severe drought is preventing farmers from growing food and generating income.

The economic impact of the Ukraine-Russia conflict on the price of basic commodities has seriously affected the purchasing power of families. Millions of people face growing shortages of electricity and clean water, posing a risk of waterborne diseases.

Despite all their efforts, humanitarian organizations do not have the capacity to respond to the growing needs of the Afghan population. Without urgent international support and investment, millions of children, women and men face immediate life-saving problems.

With more than half the population in need of humanitarian assistance and nearly 20 million people in acute food insecurity, what future can mothers and fathers see for their children and the more than 100,000 babies born this year?

We have a moral and humanitarian obligation to ensure that Afghan newborns and their families receive the help they need. States and development agencies must return to Afghanistan and continue their support for Afghans, who are already facing an unbearable situation.

For more information please contact:

**Parwiz Ahmad Faizi, **ICRC Kabul, [email protected], tel. : +93 729 110 672
**Lucien Christen, **ICRC Kabul, [email protected], Tel. : +93 72 914 0551
**Anita Dullard, **ICRC Bangkok, [email protected], Tel. : +66 659 562 064

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